Care for car body in winter climate

I just moved from Texas to Minnesota. I have lived here before, but can’t remember what steps, if any, I took to help prevent damage from the road salt on the Minneapolis streets. Any suggestions? Have a really pretty 2003 Jaguar XJ8 and I want to keep it for a long time.

Wash it regularly. Not the “in your driveway” wash, but in a real carwash…one that will also wash the underside. That should be all you need. Wax it once in a while to protect the finish.

Just did a paste wax a couple weeks ago. good to know it will help.

I’d also add that if you have any chips and nicks in the paint, get those filled in before the bare metal starts to rust.

Where will the car be kept?  Will it be outside or in a garage (attached, or separate? 

Often in cold country, it is better not to try and keep it washed.   If you had a chance to see the equipment used to mine salt, you would find that the equipment has little or no rust. The salt absorbs the moisture. 

Of course when you drive on salted roads, you do get moisture and salt together and that is what is bad.

However, I would expect that there would be less salt damage in Minnesota than in Ohio, where I live.  It is not the cold or the salt or the temperature, it is the mix of the three that does the damage.

Watch out at the car wash.  Some use recycled water, so you are getting salt water sprayed onto your car.  High pressure sprays also will push salt water into the car in places that would normally be dry.  

The going point is that most modern cars are far better when it comes to salt to start with.  Back in the 60's when I started buying cars, the cars were not designed to resist rust, today's cars are far better.  

One last thing. Depending on where you live, you car may be better off parked outside than in a garage. In really cold weather the salt does not cause rust until the temperature gets warm enough to start melting the snow and ice.

Good Luck

What Joseph wrote above is exactly what I was thinking. Nicely written.

“I just moved from Texas to Minnesota.” “. . but can’t remember what steps, if any, I took to help prevent damage from the road salt on the Minneapolis streets.”

From the horse’s mouth (The Real Story):
Prevent damage ? Are you kidding me ? Prevent is much too strong a word. I live in salt country and you can try some efforts to postpone or delay the damage, but the vehicle will be damaged.

I live above the 45th parallel in salt country and have forever. I agree that the car bodies are better able to handle the salt now than in years past, but the salt will still kick their butt and take their lunch money. It gets turned into salt water and creeps into every nook and cranny in every part of the outside car, not just the body.

Have a really pretty 2003 Jaguar XJ8 and I want to keep it for a long time.

Two choices:

  1. Drive it and enjoy it while it’s still nice. You will probably get several good years out of it. Try and start “letting go.” (Think terminally ill patient.)

  2. Park it during salt season and drive another car that you can stand to sacrifice. I actually park a Dodge Minivan and 2 Pontiac Fieros (outdoors) every winter. After as much as 25 years+ they have no rust, anywhere (think Texas). My insurance company allows me to suspend the insurance, while leaving Comprehensive coverage on the parked cars. The cost and savings makes this workable.

So, do some of the suggestions from other posts (particularly Oblivion’s) and drive it for a while while it is still enjoyable to look at or park it and use some other means of transportation.

Oh, did I mention I hate the use of road salt as a melting agent ? You might find it hard to believe, but I absolutely hate it and think that it is not a viable solution to slippery roads. I curse the County salt trucks every chance I get.


If you truly want to keep the Jag for a long time, park it in a garage from November 1 until April 15 and get yourself a front-wheel drive beater with winter tires for the winter months.

I have a love-hate relationship with the salt trucks myself. Salt is bad for cars, damages the roads, stains your clothes and shoes, and the runoff isn’t good for plant life. But in the middle of an ice storm, when I’m going over a narrow 2-lane bridge, I’m pretty glad to see that they’re out and about. There are probably better alternatives, but you can bet that your city government will always choose the cheapest option.

The usual frequent washing and touch ups help the outside but nothing helps the inner body panel welds in the doors, sills rear quarters and other areas. Cars mostly rust from the inside out…washing only helps minimally from the outside. Many body repair people and mechanics in my area and friend with a plethora of antique cars all treat their own cars inner body panels with motor oil. It’s messy, not for the timid, but it’s easy to do and it works. You will be able to find a garage or body shop that will do it for you. A treatment every two to three years is plenty. Also treat area under floor covering as you bring salt in on your shoes. Or, get Husky floor mats. They are the best…

Use linseed oil if need be. I have been doing it for over 30 years and never had a car rust in treated areas. It works and cars are worth much more trade in or sell time when they are rust free…thousands vs nothing on older cars. That’s what (rust free) sells cars, not frequent oil changes. If my friend can commute in the rust belt winters for 25 years in a rust free VW beetle…anyone can benefit.

No one should have to worry about premature rust from road salt. It takes no more time then an oil change and costs only the price of a quart of oil and a small garden sprayer…mine is thirty years old. If your cars rust and you consider yourself car maintenance person, you have only yourself to blame. Drive your car all winter and don’t worry instead.

Honestly I think it will last long enough at this point. The vehicle is already 8yrs old and had not had salt exposure.

A 2003 Jag in MN should still have a decent body and you are 8yrs ahead. Enjoy your vehicle. The Jags in the last 15yrs around my parts of NH (we love salt) seem to hold together well.

Washing a vehicle in the winter is a good thing to do. When it’s below freezing then no need to wash it…but how many days do you have where the whole day is below freezing…Even here in NH it’s NOT that common…last year we probably only had 20 days where it NEVER got above freezing.

How long a car will last due to rust as a criteria to replace it, is short sighted IMO. The decision to replace a car should and can be made irrespective of salt exposure. The buying public is living with cars that “rust on demand” to keep turnover in vogue. It still bewilders me to think we still value 2500 mile oil changes over proper body maintenance and rust prevention. Washing alone and garaging one car to sacrifice another are playing into the hands of automakers. We can do better…Car bodies can easily last 20 to 30 completely rust free years in worse environments if we give them the same attention as oil changes. Running them through a car wash is not enough.

I live in a high rise apartment building and so the Jag is in a large parking garage that stays very dry. I walk to work so only use the car for errands on weekends or occasional trips down to Chicago. A second car would cost $87 per month for parking. sounds like the key is keeping it clean and getting the underside washed regularly at a car wash where they don’t recycle the water.

How can one verify that the car wash doesnt recycle the water?

Vocal…give my your tired, your weak, your huddled masses and your Jag, yearning to be rust free. Find a body shop that will give your sheet metal seams a motor oil treatment, once a year, and rust prevention will be reduced to touching up nicks on your part and running it through a car wash with their cheap liquid spray wax jobs, once a month.

The best thing for the Jag is park it for the winter. Salt and whatever else they use on the roads in winter is very corrosive. Once the salt gets on the Jag the rust comes shortly thereafter. Washing the undercarriage helps but best to just not expose it to the salt in the 1st place. I have an '04 T’bird that gets parked for the winter in PA once the road salting starts.

A good wax job might help the exterior body panels. But that wax job won’t do anything to protect the frame, suspension components, and all the nuts and bolts on the underside of the car. They will rust no matter what you do to the body.

UT… There is. But few are willing to crawl under the car and “paint” red grease on rust prone components with a foam brush once a year. There are things you can do and friend who drives 20 year old completely rust free cars daily in heavily salted areas can attest to it.

The oiling of inner panels that dagosa mentions was actually a maintenance item for old SAABs, with holes drilled in body panels to allow for easy access. I’m looking for my old manual and will try to post it, kind of interesting. It IS messy but works well. Rocketman

Rocketman…funny you should mention the early SAABs. My 71 Saab 99 though saddled with the dreadful British Leland motor, had a body that held no equal to any I have owned since. The drain holes were rubber plugged for cleaning and appropriately placed.